When creating a bucket list, far-flung destinations often spring to mind first, but we should all remember that there are some incredible U.S destinations worthy of making that list. This year in particular, when international travel is likely to remain disrupted for a while, it just might be the time to turn your focus a little bit closer to home. We’ve got three great suggestions:
Mountains, lakes, glaciers, waterfalls, and extraordinary wildlife. If you’re looking for adventure in the great outdoors, Alaska is the perfect escape to start planning now — especially after spending so much time indoors these past few months! With so many gorgeous national parks and adventurous excursions to choose from, this trip will take some advance planning — another reason it belongs on a bucket list.
There’s no shortage of natural beauty in Alaska. Denali National Park has the highest peak in the U.S., breathtaking hiking trails and amazing wildlife viewing opportunities. If you’ve always wanted to see a grizzly bear, then Katmai National Park is the place to go. Famous for their “Fat Bear Week“, you can fly into the park and stay at a local lodge while keeping an eye out for grizzlies catching salmon. To see more bald eagles than you can count, check out the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve outside Haines, Alaska. And to get the most out of any of these parks, experience them with a knowledgeable guide booked through an outdoor adventure tour operator.
The majestic Glacier National Park lets you see a calving glacier create a tidal wave. Stand in awe of these icy giants, explore the ice caves, or see it all from above with a helicopter tour.
The best hiking, fishing, and wildlife sightings are in summer and early autumn. But don’t discount late-winter and early-spring visits. Snow-filled activities like dog-sledding, seeing the start of the Iditarod Race, and chasing the Northern Lights are in store for a February-March trip.
For a truly unique experience search the skies for the Aurora from a relaxing hot spring at Chena Hot Springs Resort.
Whatever your outdoor adventure goals, head to Alaska for the stunning landscapes and variety of adventures.
Top Bucket List Experiences
- See grizzly bears in their natural habitat
- Glaciers & ice caves
- Go dog sledding and cuddle a husky pup
- Whale watching
- See the Iditarod Race
- Northern Lights
- Ultimate fishing experience
#2 Sedona, Arizona
A calming and centering experience awaits you in the unique red rocks of Sedona, where you can combine relaxation with the great outdoors. You can hike, horseback ride and golf, or lounge pool-side, dine al fresco, and indulge in a decadent spa treatment at a luxurious resort like L’Auberge de Sedona or Enchantment.
This small Arizonan town offers a huge number of beautiful hiking trails, and even a naturally-formed ‘waterslide’ in Slide Rock State Park. You can enjoy the jaw-dropping scenery from your balcony, or during a morning meditation session, before going out to explore.
If hiking isn’t for you, off-road Jeep tours venture out into the canyons to bring you close to ancient petroglyphs and Puebloan architecture such as Montezuma’s Castle (one of the best-preserved cliff dwelling in North America). Or you can take a guided kayak river trip down to the vineyards for some afternoon wine tasting.
Finally, don’t miss out on the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village. Modeled after a traditional Mexican village, you’ll find serenity within its walls. Browse shops and galleries where more often than not you can meet the creators. See beautiful hand-made jewelry, metal works, paintings, and other crafts before enjoying a delectable lunch.
A bucket list two-for-one, Sedona is situated only a two-hour drive from the Grand Canyon! Explore one of the seven natural wonders of the world on a day trip from your meditative and rejuvenating home base.
Top Bucket List Experiences
- Off-roading adventure
- Spiritual experiences among the red rocks
- Hot air ballooning
- Slide down a natural water-slide
- Get up-close-and-personal with saguaros
- Visit the Grand Canyon
#3 Florida Keys
Perhaps after all this craziness you just want to relax by the beach with a cool drink in hand. Look no further than the collection of islands at the southern-most point of the continental U.S. — The Florida Keys. ‘The Keys’ offer some of the best sunsets, seafood, snorkeling, and SCUBA around. Warm water, breath-taking parks, and the best key lime pie in the world? Definitely a location to add to the bucket list.
Start at the northernmost island, Key Largo, with the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Explore coral reefs, seagrass swamps, and mangrove forests. Take a ride on a glass-bottom boat, kayak through the mangroves, or visit the nation’s first underwater park!
Finally, cross the Seven-Mile Bridge and finish your journey in Key West. You can visit Ernest Hemingway’s house ( with its 50+ cats) and take a selfie at the southernmost point of the continental U.S.
The road trip from Key Largo to Key West is only two hours, leaving you plenty of time to sit back and relax. The Keys are their own paradise, of course, but you can also take it up a notch with a stay in a luxurious beachfront bungalow.
In Key Largo, you’ll find the all-inclusive The Bungalows Resort — a beautifully peaceful location with luxurious adults-only private villas. Their stand-alone bungalows come with a waterfront view and a soaking tub on each outdoor veranda, and you can relax in the spa, pools, or with a morning yoga session. You can also venture a little further south for the luxury of a private island resort and spa at Little Palm Island. Here, guests arrive by boat or seaplane, and enjoy adults-only luxury with an optional all-inclusive plan that makes the experience complete.
Top Bucket List Experiences
- Jetpack water flight
- Snorkeling coral reefs
- Dolphin Research Center
- Turtle hospital
- Hemmingway’s House
- The southernmost point of the continental U.S
- Key lime pie and conch fritters
- Airboat through the everglades
Whether you are building your bucket list around adventure, relaxation or luxury, there are some fantastic options close to home. It’s not about how far away you travel, but the unique experiences you have, the breathtaking things you see, and the lasting memories you create. If you’d like to start planning a bucket list-worthy trip to any of these destinations send us an email!